No matter what kind of job you are interviewing for, there is a high probability that you will be asked the question, “Tell me about yourself”. The common belief by most people is that this is hardest question to be asked in an interview. Why? Because there is no definitive answer to it. It is a question that you must practice and be prepared for. For example, what if the question is not asked exactly as, “Tell me about yourself?” It could be phrased in a variety of ways, such as, “Why should I hire you?” or “What makes you stand out among the other applicants?” or “If you had 30 seconds with the CEO, what would you tell him about yourself?”
Every time we meet someone new, no matter where or when in life, we are essentially answering the tell me about yourself question. We need to take those principles and apply them to the interview.
But first, we must understand why the interviewer is asking this question. Generally, it depends on when they are asking it: in the beginning, middle or end of the interview. This helps us understand what kind of answer to give. When the question is asked will change your answer. Also, it is important to remember that speed is a factor here. Meaning, you do not want to take any pauses after the question is asked. You are essentially describing yourself, if you do not know the answer, then the interviewer will think you are lying.
If the question is asked at the beginning of the interview, they are most likely using it as an ice breaker. The majority of interviewers are not trained in the art of interviewing, therefore they rely on icebreakers to ease into the interview. Your objective is to set up the interview for success by giving a good answer here. You will want to summarize your skills as they relate to the job; basically describing why you are qualified for the job and no one else. Additionally, there are differing opinions on if you should discuss anything personal, sometimes it can serve a good transition or segway into the next question; however, if you do share personal information, do so very briefly.
It is not as common for the question to be asked in the middle. It is at this juncture that the interviewer may feel they do not have a good understanding why they are interviewing you or if you are a good fit for the job. They are looking to reassure themselves before they spend any more time with you. This is your opportunity to do just that, reassure them of your skills, why you are a fit for this job and redirect the interview to where you want it to go.
Lastly is when it is asked towards the end of the interview. This usually means that the interviewer is looking to end so they are looking for a way to wrap it up. Again, this is your opportunity to recap your skills. You do not want to repeat all the answers from your previous questions, yet recap your skills. Basically answering the question, “If I hire you today, what will I get from you?” Take this time to fill in the interviewer on anything you feel they missed about you. This is your last impression and the last thing they will remember about you so make it count!
Remember, this is a professional interview for a professional job, try to keep the personal stuff out of it as much as possible – even though it is illegal for an employer to judge you on the fact that you have children or on your sexual orientation, don’t risk it and save that information for after you get the job!